Best Practices for Employment Contracts

Copy of employment contract on a desk

Best Practices for Employment Contracts

When hiring a new member to the team, it is easy to get caught up in all the excitement and overlook the necessity of creating an employment contract. An employment contract is usually entered into between an employer and executives, physicians, engineers, or other highly skilled employees. Employment contracts are essential to protect your company and create secure, legal agreements. 

So, what should be included in employment contracts to ensure everyone has a clear understanding of their employment? Follow this employment contract template for your next hire.

Scope of Employment

The first thing you want to include in your employment contract is what the job entails. This includes the employee’s job title, responsibilities, and location of employment. If specific terms have been negotiated between the employer and employee, they will be mentioned here. For example, how many hours the employee can work from home a week or goals to be reached in a certain time frame. 

Compensation

Compensation terms need to be clearly stated, especially when the employee is being compensated by bonus pay or commission on top of base salary. The employment contract should also include conditions that need to be met for raises or bonuses.

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Benefits

Health benefits such as health insurance or life insurance, 401k or other investment plans, stock options, and signing bonuses are additional key factors to include in the contract. You should also address time off, vacation, and sick day policies. For example, employment contracts should cover how time off is accrued and the number of vacation days employees can take per year, including sick leave.

Termination Conditions

Employment contracts are typically terminated upon some violation of the agreement between the employer and employee. In other cases, the agreement may have a set term of employment, meaning there is a set date where employment ends. The employment contract should also state what the employee or employer can do that will result in termination. For instance, can employees be fired if they commit a felony or misdemeanors such as theft or embezzlement? Or can the employee terminate the contract with the employer if the company violates any rules of the agreement or files for bankruptcy? Additionally, the contract should state terms of severance for wrongful termination. 

Confidentiality and Privacy

The employment agreement should include what the employer and employee can disclose to the public. Confidentiality agreements and non-compete agreements require additional signatures that may be project-specific and prevent the employee from working with a competitor. You might also want to include terms on what employees can say about the company on social media. 

Are you an employer searching for help to draft an employment contract in Canada? Contact Castle HR to ramp up the onboarding process and protect your company!


Book a call with us to learn how we’re helping companies
attract superstar talent, increase productivity,
and score a ridiculous retention rate.

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What is an Employee Handbook and Why is it Important?

What is an Employee Handbook and why do we need one?

What is an Employee Handbook?

At its core, an employee handbook is a place to keep all of your official HR policies. It’s also so much more: it’s a document that describes and celebrates your company’s culture and values. 

An employee handbook should also include an acknowledgment form where employees sign off on all of its policies.

Why do we need an Employee Handbook?

An employee handbook protects the business from legal exposure by defining what is—and is not—acceptable at your company. 

Employee handbooks also protect the people on your team by informing them of their legal rights, and by setting expectations from day 1.

Can I just keep a folder of our policies instead?

A loose collection of policies—even if they’re all in one convenient place—is not as good as having a full employee handbook. For one, tracking who has signed off on which policies becomes a logistical nightmare. Updating policies over time and tracking changes quickly becomes an issue as well.

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How does Castle HR do Employee Handbooks?

We make fully-customized employee handbooks that shout your company culture from the rooftops. Your values are front and centre, and every policy is written to fit your exact needs.

A modern employee handbook is more than just a way to stay legally compliant; it’s a document that employees will refer back to time and again because it has answers.

Castle HR also proactively updates our clients’ employee handbooks when something changes. Companies often find the need for new policies as they grow. An employment bill passing into law also presents the need to adapt—often quickly.

Can I use a template to create my employee handbook?

Templates—whether for the overall document or for specific policies—will never do your company justice. While a template may provide some coverage, the gaps are critical when it comes to legal exposure. 

The presentation of a handbook also sends an important message to the team. What level of effort and care went into creating a document so central to the organization? They’ll know.

The bottom line:

An employee handbook is an important document for both new and tenured employees. It codifies your culture, and there’s power in writing things down.

It’s also critical to stay compliant with your legal responsibilities, both to protect your business and your people.


Book a call with us to learn how we’re helping companies
attract superstar talent, increase productivity,
and score a ridiculous retention rate.

70 Percentage

increase in new
hire quality

59 Percentage

less
turnover

21% - Castle HR

more
profitable

How to Build a Modern HR Strategy

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How to Build a Modern HR Strategy

Let me guess:

Maybe you had a top performer give their notice and filling that gap is now your top priority and now you need to scramble to meet product launch deadlines or sales targets…

Or maybe you’re not seeing results from your recruiting strategy, and if one more A+ candidate takes a role with another company you will throw your laptop out the window…

Or maybe you are tired of keeping up to date with the latest Bill and legal precedents that passed and understanding what policies you need to change…

Or maybe you have some underperforming employees and you are pulling out your hair to try and motivate them…

What gives? You have a leak in your HR strategy.

Something, somewhere, has gone awry, and it’s impacting your retention, performance and culture. This is where Modern HR strategies are game-changers.

They will help you find those leaks, seal them up, and get you back on track to smashing your growth goals for the year.

Ready to build your best team and become a talent magnet? Here’s how to implement a Modern HR strategy.

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Why Is Modern HR Important?

In the new world of work, the balance of power has shifted from companies to their people. Because of this shift, people expect more from the companies and leaders for whom they choose to work.

Your company’s success depends heavily on Modern HR Strategies that provide what employees have come to expect. 

A business must build a strong culture that attracts top-tier talent, provides a fast start for new hires, engages people by providing feedback and actively invests in their development. 

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If your HR strategy is not up to what today’s workforce wants, you’ll most likely only attract B-Players or have underperforming A-Players – both will stunt your company’s growth.

Besides helping you attract your ideal candidates or ensuring you are compliant with the ever-changing employment law landscape, Modern HR strategies give you an in-depth understanding of your team.

As Gino Wickman says in Traction, knowing if you have the “Right People” in the “Right Seats” is paramount to success – this mentality drives our Modern HR strategy.

How we do Modern HR

OK, so now that we know why Modern HR is important, let’s dive into the steps required to increase results.

1. HR Foundation

A building can only be as tall as its foundation allows. Similarly, companies need strong HR Foundations or they will scale to the size they can.

Here are the key aspects to any Modern HR Foundation:

Company Values

Define your beliefs and vision so you can communicate them.

Employee Handbook

Set expectations for the team and protect the business you worked so hard to build.

Surveys

Reviewing core metrics regularly will validate if you’re on track or identify potential leaks in your strategy.

Some of the HR Data Points you’ll want to review include:

  • Turnover Rates
  • Engagement
  • Productivity

We regularly track these HR Data Points and offer comparisons against our portfolio as well as peer data if available. 

2. Modern Performance Reviews

Modern Performance Reviews are the backbone of any Retention Strategy and continually validate that you have the “Right People in the Right Seats” with quarterly conversations.

Old school Annual Performance Reviews that resemble a high school report card are not going to cut it with today’s workforce. It is imperative that you have multiple conversations a year to avoid the Santa Phenomenon:

Honest feedback increases your retention and identifies who should level up roles or are possibly exited from the company.

Two major aspects of a Modern Performance Review are:

Culture

Validate your team and company are living the compay’s values.

Growth

Having the conversation that asks the powerful sequence of questions: Where did you come from? Where are you now? and Where do you want to go?

Having these conversations tells your team that you care about them and their future at your organization.

Tracking Modern Performance Reviews is important and should be done in an HRIS.

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3. Talent Acquisition

Raise your hand if you have ever said this after meeting a candidate:

“They were great, but let’s see what else is out there.”

This is what we refer to as “Interview Insecurity” and it is one of the enemies of building a team full of A+ talent.

You need to understand two key aspects, what is your Ideal Candidate Profile and what is their Ideal Company Profile. When those are aligned, it will make it 10x easier to identify and hire top-tier talent.

When starting a new hire search ask yourself these questions before you make a job posting:

What does success look like for this role?

This question is often overlooked and the Job Title is used. It is critical that you note how you will judge the success of the hire and they know this coming in too.

  1. What is the Ideal Candidate Profile?

Now you know what they need to do to be successful, what skills, traits, values and competencies will they need?

If you don’t Know EXACTLY who you are looking for, how will you know when you find them?

  1. Where will you find your Ideal Candidate?

We love sharing every new role with the team and use an Employee Referral Program as an incentive.

If nothing comes from asking the team, you need to create a Job Posting that speaks directly to your Ideal Candidate and post them where they look.

You can also amplify your sourcing strategy with Specialized Talent Networks — e.g. Women in Tech Sales

  1. What Interview Process should we use?

Having an Interview Scorecard will help provide clarity, reduce Interview Bias and expedite internal conversations.

When you have a clear vision of your Ideal Candidate, know where to find them, have an interview process that gives you confidence to make an offer you will build a dream team!

4. Onboarding Playbook

What should an Onboarding Playbook include?

An Onboarding Playbook should include a strategy from when a new hire signs an Offer Letter to their Probation Review. If done properly it will not give them a running start, but shoot them out of a cannon towards success!

We often joke that in fast growing companies an onboarding process usually amounts to handing over a laptop and giving them a high-five.

Onboarding plays a vital role in the success of your HR Strategy. It affects Turnover Rate, productivity, and culture.

We look at a few key milestones to create custom Onboarding Playbooks:

  • Day 0

Everything that happens from signing to their first day, this can include Swag Bags and Welcome Packages.

  • Orientation Week

The schedule for the first week that introduces new hires to the Values, Product/Service, Leadership and expectations (think Employee Handbook).

  • Ramp Up

You will define what success looks like for the first 90 days and put them on a clear path to get there – checking in at certain points.

  • Probation Review

This day 90 check-in should be to review how the new hire did against the agreed upon expectations and let them know if they passed their probation.

Having a positive and focused onboarding experience checks all the boxes leaders want: high performance and increased tenure at the company.

Frequently Asked Questions About Modern HR Strategies:

How often should I review my Modern HR Strategy plan?

You should review your Modern HR Strategy every quarter or 6 months to ensure no leaks have sprung and to adjust as your company grows.

What are Modern HR Strategies?

Modern HR strategies embrace empathy, make data-driven decisions and deploy strategies that resonate with today’s workforce.

What HR Tools can I use to improve Modern HR impact?

The best tool you can use to improve your HR strategy is having an HRIS (Human Resource Information System). This is because it enables data entry, tracking and provides a single source of truth about your team.

How does Modern HR Strategies impact Retention?

Modern HR Strategies contribute to increasing retention rate at a company, the largest contributor would be Modern Performance Reviews as they provide feedback loops and career growth plans.

Conclusion: Modern HR Strategies

HR is never a once-and-done thing. It’s something you need to nurture and constantly give attention to if you want to see sustainable, long-term growth.

Whether you’re just starting out, refreshing an existing strategy, or checking HR Data Points, you need to evaluate your Modern HR Strategy continually. 

Doing so will ensure you’re making progress and on track to meet your growth goals.


Book a call with us to learn how we’re helping companies
attract superstar talent, increase productivity,
and score a ridiculous retention rate.

70 Percentage

increase in new
hire quality

59 Percentage

less
turnover

21% - Castle HR

more
profitable

Why You Need to Modernize Your Performance Reviews

Why You Need to Modernize Your Performance Reviews

We see a lot of raised eyebrows when we speak about a modern approach to performance reviews. Historically, performance reviews are dreaded by both managers and employees. The anticipation of sitting down for an annual meeting is stressful and awkward, and when the conversations do finally take place they’re not as beneficial for either party as they could be.

The truth is that there is a better way to do performance reviews. 

At Castle we’ve created a modern approach to performance reviews that are beneficial for employers and helpful for employees as well. This does present something of a shift in thinking for employers; many came up as employees in workplaces that did things the old fashioned way. We recommend that as employers you cast aside that once-a-year port mortem mentality, stop focusing so much on salary, and really make sure that your employees are motivated and growing professionally. 

We get a lot of questions about how to handle performance reviews, and we wanted to share a few tips that highlight the benefit of modernizing your approach.

What is the goal of a performance review?

The ultimate goal of a performance review is to make sure that you have the right people in the right seats at your company. The old approach to performance reviews is a missed opportunity here. Instead of trying to rank employees by whatever metrics, we are better served making sure people have the skills to succeed in their role.

As workplace expert Jim Collins talks about in Good To Great, use performance reviews as an opportunity to make sure that you have “the right people on the bus, the right people in the right seats.” A performance review is your best method for quality assurance when it comes to your employees. You’ll be able to ensure that your employees are performing exactly as you expect, and if there are any issues you can address them quickly before they escalate. 

Remember, when it’s your workplace you’re the one driving the bus. Not only do reviews make sure that everyone is sitting in the right seat, but you’ll be able to quickly recognize who needs to change seats, and who is ready for more responsibility. This level of familiarity with your team makes it easier to promote from within, which in turn can save both time and money instead of recruiting externally.

How often should we do performance reviews?

The old method is to do performance reviews annually, usually at the end of the calendar or fiscal year. Employees spend the weeks leading up to the review on their best behaviour, creating a recency bias that’s very real. Employers and managers running teams are also forced to try and remember what happened with each report for a full year – and that’s hard!

The modern approach is to run quarterly reviews. This frequency takes a lot of the pressure off of the meeting, and allows it to flow more like an ongoing conversation. We have found that this gives employers a greater degree of control in the process, too. Not only are they working with employees when they’re more relaxed, but they’re able to assess performance in real time instead of forgetting about incidents that have long passed – or waiting up to a year to address them. 

Quarterly reviews are beneficial when it comes to setting goals, too, by enabling shorter-term, practical goals alongside larger ones. Tracking and measuring progress is much more motivating this way. The continuous feedback keeps employees more engaged, and excited about their development.

Should performance reviews be tied to pay?

This question comes up all the time, because a direct link from review to compensation is very much the typical flow. Employees have been trained to enter the conversation as though they’re visiting a mall Santa: present a list of their good deeds and accomplishments over the past year, and then ask for the salary increase that they believe they deserve. This may have worked at a time when employees stayed with the same company for decades and salary increases were the greatest badge of honour for a job well done.

That is no longer the case. 

Employees are much more mobile across both companies and roles these days, so keeping the right people loyal to your team is going to require a new tactic. Regular performance reviews can become a dynamic conversation about growth, which is something modern employees value as a token of success. 

Salary increases are important, and of course there is still a place for them. Tying them instead to long-term growth and development changes the game: consistent hard work plus the drive to improve and learn leads to rewards. It’s not enough to just be great in Q4, hoping that’s all your manager remembers.

“Employees will recognize that performance reviews stop being an adversarial process and start being a conversation with a manager that’s invested in their success.” 

Can performance reviews increase employee retention?

Absolutely! One of the biggest problems with the old approach is that they effectively became an exercise in ranking employees. Once reviews were completed you could list your employees from best to worst by a numerical score, which doesn’t contribute to employee development and is not a useful way to look at human beings. If an employee feels like they’re just a line item on some ranking sheet, how likely are they to stay, knowing that everything they do is reduced to one number?

Employee retention is a huge problem in any sized company. We recently assisted with a benchmark study in the MaRS Discovery District, which showed that the average number of leaders who were promoted from within is roughly 20%, or 1 in 5 – and this was true for both larger and small companies. That’s really low! Imagine how a higher internal promotion rate could improve loyalty and morale, not to mention preserve your company culture and internal operating knowledge.

Modern performance reviews – done quarterly – show you who is really on your bus. You will gain a fuller understanding of your employee’s hopes and ambitions, and can spot opportunities for advancement far earlier. Not only is there a cost and time savings to promoting from within, but employees knowing that such opportunities exist motivates them to stick around for the long haul.  


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Client Testimonial - Crowdlinker

“Thanks to Marylisa and Alec, we now have a performance review system that creates a motivating and highly personalized experience that touches the lives of our people.”

COURTNEY ZORIO, COO CROWDLINKER

How do we run quarterly review conversations?

When employees are surveyed and asked about the best qualities in a manager, the universal answer every time is when employees believe that a manager truly cares about them and their success. Financial rewards are nice to a point, but there is no substitute for having a manager that is ultimately rooting for your success and offering whatever support they can along the way.

While old school reviews are top-down, modern performance reviews allow you to turn them into a conversation. Show employees you care by speaking openly about what is working, and what opportunities exist to improve – whether that’s for this role, or the next one. Ask them where they would like to go next, and discuss how you can help them get there. Our approach is to make the conversation centered on the person, not about a score or a number. Employees will recognize that performance reviews stop being an adversarial process and start being a conversation with a manager that’s invested in their success. 

It’s no secret that at Castle HR we see performance reviews differently. Our approach has helped our clients reinvent the way that they engage with their employees, and has ultimately led to greater retention and greater team development.

Our outsourced HR professionals work closely with our clients to help them change their performance review system top-down. Our approach is a unique one, and we will work with you step by step to implement it into your organization. Schedule a time below to set up an HR consultation and learn more about how we can help you do things differently.


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Client Testimonials - Castle HR

“My favourite part of working with Castle HR is that they systematically and methodically work through the various elements of one’s operation, from values to performance reviews to onboarding, and their talented team guides you to building processes and content that make a big impact.”

ROB CARMICHAEL, CEO CAMPBRAIN


Book a call with us to learn how we’re helping companies
attract superstar talent, increase productivity,
and score a ridiculous retention rate.

70 Percentage

increase in new
hire quality

59 Percentage

less
turnover

21% - Castle HR

more
profitable

The 5 Keys to a Best-in-Class Interview Process

The 5 Keys to a Best-in-Class Interview Process

We recently did a deep dive on why it’s so important to hire for values over skills. But if you don’t have a great interview process to begin with, the candidates you want – the ones that share your values – are not going to accept your offers.

If only you could build a process that finds you the right people and has them scrambling to say yes…

Well, read on!

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  1. Transparency from the Start

Your candidates should know a fair bit about your process even before they apply. Why? It’s a natural filter to save your time and theirs. If your process takes 3 months and they need a start before then, no amount of interviews is going to make it a good fit. Or you may do rigorous reference checks, and candidates might need time to line those up. Think of this as a professional kindness.

Having a standardized process also shows that you’re limiting some biases. The opposite – a subjective flow – lets the interviewer decide who the candidate should speak to next, or possibly even to make the hiring decision right away. Stick to the process, and being transparent up front means you’re committed.

At Castle HR, we post our interview process directly as part of our job description. Candidates know exactly with whom they will be meeting at each stage so that they can do their homework. We also include a short description of each step and an estimate of the overall timeline.

“Scoring for values is the difference between a grocery list that says ‘get something for dinner’ and one that has an itemized list of ingredients for a four-course meal.”


flat lay photography of vegetable salad on plate

2. Value-Based Scorecards

This sounds simple, right? And using a scorecard should be – that’s the point. But how you create the scorecard is critical.

Scoring for your company’s values is the difference between a grocery list that says “get something for dinner” and one that has an itemized list of ingredients (with measurements!) for a four-course meal.

Interview scorecards – designed well – can also be a huge asset in removing bias. How you word your questions and how you teach your team to evaluate candidate responses cannot be neglected.

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3. The “Show, Don’t Tell” Approach

Behavioural-style interview questions (“tell me about a time when you…”) are quickly moving out of fashion. They not only put candidates on the spot, they leave room for errors in memory and deception (no matter how well-intentioned).

Instead, design your process to have the candidate show you what they can do. The key here is to not ask for too much. They’re not working for free, after all.

Set a task that lets them show off their chops, and also allows for some creativity. This is a great opportunity to align the conversation around your values, too; a fun-loving team might put a goofy spin on the task so you can’t help but laugh together. Does the person take it way too seriously? Maybe they aren’t the best fit.

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4. Empower Your People

This could arguably be titled, “Let decisions happen.” Don’t overcomplicate by requiring sign off from every executive unless the role really calls for that. Decide in advance who’s making the decision, and then let them.

A surefire way to lose a promising candidate is to leave them waiting, and waiting, and waiting. If the person who would decide is going to be on vacation, you should be able to know that in advance and deputize someone else.

This not only makes for a more efficient process that doesn’t trip and stumble over preventable details, it shows candidates that you’re serious about them! They’ll also see that you’re a company that trusts the people they hire. You want them thinking, “the CEO was away, but clearly has a lot of faith in their team – I want to be a part of that!”

brown and clear hour glass

5. Trust in the Process

When you build a good process it will find you quality candidates.

Earlier this year we released a video about eliminating ‘interview insecurity,’ where you think you’ve found the perfect candidate, but you just want to meet 5 more to see how they measure up.

Then suddenly that perfect candidate gets snatched up by your competition because they didn’t hesitate! This paralysis-by-analysis is a great way to lose skilled talent.

 

It’s time to sit back and let your interview process do its thing. That’s why you put so much effort into it, right?


Our fractional HR team is here to help guide you in creating a stellar interview process. Contact us today to learn how we can help.

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4 Steps to Harness the Power of Employee Surveys

4 Steps to Harness the Power of Employee Surveys

Make no mistake – your employees are talking. They’re speaking with each other after hours, behind closed doors, on private message threads, and during weekend hangouts. They’re sharing with each other their individual perspective on some things your business is doing right, and everything that they think your business is doing wrong.

As an employer, wouldn’t it be nice to know what they’re saying? You want to know what’s working, and what could be better. Unhappy employees means lost productivity and spikes in turnover costs. But unless you provide a channel for honest communication direct to your leadership team, they’ll probably just keep talking to each other.

Enter the survey. It’s not a revolutionary tool, but when you do these 4 steps you’ll get great results.

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Photo by Jopwell on Pexels.com
  1. Understand the Why, the When, and the How

Why: Think of a workplace survey like a doctor’s check-up for your team. While you may not think of going to the doctor if you don’t feel that anything is wrong, you truly never know what is happening beneath the surface. Regular medical check-ups can catch the beginnings of serious problems and allow you to take action before a problem spirals out of control.

The same is true of employee surveys.

Employee surveys are where you can truly get a sense of your employees’ happiness and their level of satisfaction with the company. 

When: Numerous large organizations with thousands of workers routinely run at least an annual survey, wherein employees are questioned about their level of job satisfaction and even their likelihood of recommending the workplace for other applicants. Smaller teams have even more flexibility, and can easily do routine surveys (twice a year, or even quarterly) to gauge employee satisfaction and measure the improvement over each interval. 

How: Employee surveys should always be conducted anonymously. Just as you feel comfortable discussing your private medical concerns with a doctor because you’re assured of their discretion, employees should feel comfortable discussing their concerns about the workplace without fear of public exposure and humiliation. While some of the feedback may be a tough pill to swallow, it’s important that your team has a confidential outlet to voice their honest opinions. 

Employees can often be wary of surveys, and this is mainly for two reasons. The first is the concern about anonymity. Even if you promise confidentiality, there may still be some team members who will worry about being ‘discovered’ and penalized for providing honest feedback. The surprise for most employers is that negative – and even positive – feedback, does not always come from the places that you would expect. The employees who appear to be the most ‘happy-go-lucky’ may be the most comfortable expressing their frustrations anonymously, and the quietest employees may actually be the most satisfied.

“As an employer, the most important thing you can do with a survey is take it seriously. Set an action plan that responds to the feedback received, both positive and negative.”


white paper with note

2. Make an Action Plan and Communicate It

Some employees have given feedback before, only to see nothing come of it. They may have come from a workplace that routinely did a workplace engagement survey, but never actioned any of the concerns employees raised during the process. Without solid action that the team knows about, surveys will quickly lose their power. After all, how many times would you be willing to give your opinion when you know it won’t be counted?

As an employer, the most important thing that you can do with an employee survey is take it seriously. Set an action plan that responds to the feedback received, both positive and negative. Discuss the feedback received with senior leadership, and review what changes and improvements in process and facilities may be required. 

Then, share your plan with the team. This reinforces that they have been heard and that their voices count. It also creates a layer of accountability for leadership to complete the forecasted changes.

Employees will not expect everything to change overnight, and they will be far more receptive to the process when they can see the road ahead.

Want your team to have a smooth, and SAFE, return to the office? We can help!

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3. Start Somewhere. (E.g. “Return to Office“)

If you like the idea of conducting a survey but are unsure where to start, try asking employees about their thoughts on returning to the office. We recently wrote about how to return to the office successfully and offered employers some helpful tips and tricks. Even if you’ve already begun sketching out your plans for a large-scale return, a short anonymous email survey can tell you honestly if your employees are excited, reluctant, or even hesitant about the idea. 

Create some multiple choice questions and short-answer ones, so you can gather quantifiable data and also let your team communicate on their terms. Multiple choice questions will show you some great data slices like what percentage of the time your team would feel comfortable returning to the office, and when. Short-answers will give people the chance to express their ideas more fully, including on topics you could not have predicted.

Data from this survey is instrumental for guiding your return to office strategy. If you envision a full return in the coming weeks and then learn that your employees are still hesitant to be working indoors, you’re effectively setting your team up for an unhappy experience. Instead, make sure employees know that you are listening to their concerns and that you are making best efforts to build in flexibility while maintaining a safe and productive workplace – wherever that may be. 

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  1. Set – and stick to! – a Cadence for Surveys

With our clients, we always recommend running employee engagement surveys at least every 6 months. For us, they’re as helpful as a doctor taking your temperature or blood pressure. Quantifiable data points over time show us trends in progress and opportunities alike. 

The combination of a regular schedule and visible results empower employees to open up, and often they report emerging issues that can be addressed before they become something bigger.

This is the power of the survey.


Our team of fractional HR professionals routinely helps our clients run surveys effectively, and develop a strategy for how to implement the resulting feedback. As outsourced HR, our arm’s length approach allows us to really look inward, and help you assess what may need changing, and when those changes should be a priority. We love nothing more than seeing employee satisfaction scores climb year over year, since at the end of the day we’re only as happy as our clients, and they are only as happy as their team members. Contact us today to set up a consultation and to learn more about how we can help.

Ready to find out what your team is saying? We can help!

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How to Successfully Return Your Team to the Office

How to Successfully Return Your Team to the Office

If you’re an owner or manager in your business, you may have been back to the office at least a few times (or even regularly) over the past 16 months. Some owners dropped in weekly just to check mail and water the plants. Others headed in more regularly to escape the distractions of working from home, or simply because they felt they needed to make use of the space they were committed to renting.

Most other team members though have likely been working from home since March of last year, and many have decidedly mixed feelings about going back to the office now that vaccination rates are high. Some employees have expressed concerns about health and safety, and how to handle unvaccinated coworkers. Others are dreading the idea of returning to a regular commute, and the rigors that come with an inflexible daytime schedule. 

Several of our clients have made the decision during the pandemic to permanently surrender their office space, and have transitioned to a permanently remote-work model. Others though are grappling with how to plan a safe and effective return to office strategy. Here are a few tips and tricks to make your difficult planning process a little bit smoother.

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Photo by Marc Mueller on Pexels.com

Listen to your team’s concerns

Because return to office planning has been difficult to pin down due to the changing public guidelines, your team members are likely confused, scared, and generally on edge. The surest way to aggravate a difficult situation is to thrust the decision upon them without any consultation or input.

Instead, see if you can make the planning a collaborative process within your team. You may still dream of a full-scale return, but that will likely have to happen in slow increments in order to be successful. Survey your team members, have private conversations, and ask them directly what it would take to make them comfortable enough to return to the office. You may not be able to incorporate every idea put forth, but you’ll likely hear some excellent ones that will only serve to improve the working environment as you work your way back.

Also, one final tip on that note – don’t call it ‘return to work.’ Return to work is a legal term for those coming back from a layoff, and for any team members who were formally laid off then it would actually be a return to work. Most of your staff though have likely been working from home almost the entire pandemic while simultaneously juggling health and family responsibilities, so the phrase ‘return to work’ suggests that they’ve been on one long extended vacation. Nothing could be further from the truth.

“Employees will catch on quickly if they feel that a ‘collaborative process’ is just paying lip service. Ignoring suggestions outright will only harm office morale…”


man in red polo shirt thought a good idea

Implement those good suggestions

Listening to your team is helpful, but employees will catch on quickly if they feel that a ‘collaborative process’ is just paying lip service. Ignoring those employee suggestions outright will only harm office morale, and lead to employees believing that their concerns aren’t being taken seriously.

Employees likely have good reasons for wanting to implement some sort of hybrid or flexible office/home model. While employers are required to accommodate employees who have significant child or elder care obligations with no other reasonable workaround, many employees have likely amended their living situations during the pandemic in order to better balance work and home life in general. Some have even taken advantage of the hot real estate market and moved further out of the city since they’ve begun working exclusively from home.

See how many of the suggestions are actually feasible to implement, even if they’re better suited for a later date. Your employees will be more inclined to stick with a company that they know is sticking with them.

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Focus on Health and Safety First

Even if all COVID-19 mandated protocols are suddenly lifted, it would be foolhardy to rush headfirst back into full occupancy. The initial mandated maximums will likely be at a 50% of office capacity, and even those should be heeded with caution.

Take the extra time to plan out your physical space. Make sure that employees can sufficiently distance from each other, and that contact is minimized unless necessary. Rules may be amended to allow employees to eat at their desks so that they are sufficiently distanced, or even recommend off site dining until conditions improve. Mask mandates should still be encouraged to avoid unnecessary transmission. Lastly, confirm with property management that the premises will be cleaned thoroughly on a regular basis to help allay employee’s fears.  

cheerful asian girl sitting under mother practicing yoga at home

Stay flexible!

 We all learned lessons over the past year and a half about workplace flexibility. Practically overnight we improvised home offices, shuffled our schedules, upended our social lives to move entirely virtually, and learned that nature has crazy ways of breaking our rigid plans.

That flexibility will be just as important in returning to an office. Scientists are already speaking about a likely fourth wave of infections this Fall, even though it’s predicted to be smaller and less catastrophic given our high vaccination rates. Even still, infections will continue, so flexibility means planning around the fact that employees may be off for several days because they or a relative have contracted the virus. Flexibility also means that provincial guidelines may change, and capacity regulations may increase or decrease accordingly. It is well worth having several plans in place in order to account for a variety of scenarios.

Lastly, when it comes to the vaccine, privacy is paramount.

Canada has benefitted from great adherence, but the reality is that not everyone will receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Some have religious objections, others are medically inadmissible, and others may be refusing for personal reasons. 

The law is still being ironed out when it comes to this specific vaccine, and it may take a few years still for cases to move through the legal system. Generally speaking though, employers should tread cautiously when it comes to implementing vaccine policies that would attempt to either mandate vaccines, or punish those who don’t receive them. Exceptions must always be made on human rights grounds, including disability and religious freedoms, but there are greater concerns as well. Courts have generally ruled in similar situations that such policies are only acceptable in safety-sensitive workplaces, and an office environment will likely not meet that threshold. 

Instead, keep doing what you’ve done so far – encourage employees to get vaccinated, and offer them ample opportunity to do so. If an employee is unable to receive the vaccine and concerned about working from an office, examine if working from home or some other protections may be reasonably available. Employers are required to accommodate employees on the grounds of disability and must do so discreetly, so set up an HR consultation with one of our team members if you need any guidance on making these arrangements.

Return to office planning isn’t an easy task, but we are here and ready to help. Our fractional HR team is available to serve as your HR professionals. We can offer guidance on how to best re-integrate your team into the office environment while focusing on keeping everyone safe and secure. Remember, in-person collaboration may be beneficial to your company, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of health, safety, or team morale. Contact us today to set up a consultation.


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Why you Need to Hire for Values Over Skills

Why you Need to Hire for Values Over Skills

If your business has ever done sales then you’ve done the work of defining your ideal client. When your salespeople can picture their dream customer, fewer such opportunities will slip through the cracks. Whether your ideal client is the perfect buyer for your product or someone who could really use your services, they are very likely to be someone who will recommend you to others. 

Have you tried applying this same approach to your hiring process?

You may have a very clear sense of when you’re speaking with an ideal client, but what about your ideal job candidate? 

The job market uses broad terms like ‘culture fit,’ but what the heck does that even mean? 

Outside of checking the traditional boxes available on a resume, how do you know when you’ve found the right person?

Believe it or not there IS a right type of candidate, and identifying them goes way beyond how they present ‘on paper’. 

graduate with papers and laptop excited about getting job
Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on Pexels.com

Aligning Values

Do you remember the days when you were applying for jobs? Aside from asking about your experience, you were probably hit with predictable scenario questions about your past experiences in difficult situations or asking how you might handle a hypothetical. Either way, the question required you to think on your feet and formulate an answer using your intuition as a guide.

That’s because the interviewer wasn’t invested in the outcome of the situation in your example. They were interested in your behaviours and outlooks because those things are great indicators of your values. No surprise, a candidate whose values align with the company at which they are interviewing has a higher chance of success – both in interviewing and in the role itself.

For example, if honesty is a top priority in your organization then you’re going to search for candidates that can demonstrate that they value honesty in everything that they do. At Castle HR, we look for candidates who have Grit (read as: Hustle & Heart), so we know they will give their best effort and care about the results. We ask questions that reveal “gritty” qualities and elicit stories that demonstrate working towards success. That’s a great indicator that they align with our values, and will succeed in our environment.

Apple specifically seeks out happy, calm, easygoing personalities to work in their stores. Expert knowledge about technology is less important because it can be learned.

Predicting Success

Many of us have not been into an Apple store for a while, but we know what the experience of the store is like. But what about the people working there? Have you ever noticed that even though the store is always full of customers, the employees seem cheerful and unfazed? No matter how frenzied the activity around them, Apple employees are famous for maintaining this happy sense of calm and staying upbeat.


man passing an apple store

Amazingly, this isn’t because Apple employees are all technological wizards that gain comfort from having all the answers always, or that they love standing on their feet all day answering the same questions over and over again. Apple employees are happy working at Apple Stores in large part because Apple hires the type of people who would be happy being just about anywhere. 

Apple specifically seeks out happy, calm, easygoing personalities to work in their stores. Expert knowledge about technology is less important when considering a candidate because it can be learned – and of course they’ve developed processes to download that information. Rather, it’s the soft skills and personality traits that are harder to learn and say much more about a person’s values. Speaking broadly, those easy-going employees at Apple value positivity and kindness, and you see that in how they interact with customers. 

We see parallels in the legal world, too. In some areas of law that focus on litigation, lawyers and hiring managers look for students and junior lawyers who are bold, passionate, and strong-minded. The reasoning is the same: they can teach a young lawyer the fine details of the law, but the passion that it takes to get on one’s feet in court and advocate for a client can be daunting, and is harder to learn because parts of wanting to be that advocate come from your values.

a woman holding a tablet and a pen

Know Your Subcultures   

A candidate who does not align well with your company’s values is unlikely to be a great fit on any of your teams. That should be pretty obvious. But looking at this in the opposite direction presents an interesting distinction: 

Your company has core values, but each team can have its own sub-set of values too. And just because someone matches with the core values does not predict that they will be a good fit for the subculture of any given team.

Imagine a respected company, with a team of successful salespeople that has a reputation for being a bit abrasive. On this team, the ability to push people’s buttons is important. The kind of drive for success it takes to treat people this way is a value of the sales team subculture. But you wouldn’t want someone like that on a team that highly values empathy. Imagine them taking customer support calls! Yet both teams and their very different subcultures must coexist within this organization.

For another example, consider a team of developers compared to a marketing team. The former might value adherence to rigid industry standards and best practices, while the latter could prioritize exploration and unorthodox approaches to new problems. 

It’s easy to see how hiring for alignment with your company values and for the subculture of the role’s team are both important.

man people woman coffee

The Takeaway

Values are the pieces that you cannot instill in the venue of new hire training. They come from within, and are very difficult to change. If a person’s values do not align with your organization’s, they are probably not the right fit no matter how strong their technical skills.

Know the values that your organization prizes and behaviours that demonstrate them. You’ll need to figure out what interview questions will uncover whether a candidate shares those values.

Later on this month we’ll be taking a closer look at interviewing, and how to assess if that promising-on-paper candidate really is the right fit for your company, and for the team they would join. In the meantime, we are available to assist you at any time with your HR needs. Our fractional HR setup means that we do not need to be onsite to be able to lend a helping hand. Contact us today to learn more about our services.


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